Raiders release FB Neal

The Raiders waived veteran fullback Lorenzo Neal on Wednesday, a sign that Oren O'Neill is making better-than-expected progress recovering from a major knee injury.

Neal, who was one of Oakland's key offseason acquisitions, was given his release following the Raiders' morning practice against the San Francisco 49ers.

"It was just really, you know, who's here and what we think's best for the team at this point," head coach Tom Cable said. "I'm just preparing for where we need to be as a football team and what we thought we have, and whether that was enough and all that. So it was time to go in a different direction there."

Neal seemed to be doing fine in training camp and was one of the team's main offseason signings, a player Cable talked about bringing veteran experience and leadership to the Raiders' locker room.

But with third-year fullback Oren O'Neal making a faster-than-expected recovery from major knee surgery a year ago, the 38-year-old Neal became expendable.

"I think it says a lot about O'Neal," Cable said. "I think he's really got back out here, got back into it. He gets better and better with each day. In fact, today was probably his best day of catching and blocking and protecting, and just the whole thing. He feels great. Everything's stable."

O'Neal had been limited to one practice a day while working his way through rehab. He tore both the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee on the opening kickoff during an Aug. 23 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals last year. One of the hamstring muscles attached to his knee also tore away and had to be surgically reattached.

Ironically, O'Neal looked pretty beat up after Wednesday morning's practice. He walked very slowly into the team's locker room, methodically taking each step.

Asked if he expects O'Neal to be ready to start on opening day, Cable sounded optimistic.

"If he continues to progress like he's doing right now, he'll have a great shot at it," Cable said. "I think that's the best way to say it right now. He's doing really, really good."

If O'Neal isn't ready, the team will likely lean on Luke Lawton to be their starter.

The Raiders made one other move, signing safety Rashard Baker who previously played with Oakland and had been with Philadelphia in training camp before getting released by the Eagles.

Baker played for the Raiders last season, tying for the team lead in interceptions with three. He signed with Philadelphia in the offseason after receiving no offers from Oakland but couldn't stick with the Eagles as a backup safety.

Other news and notes from Wednesday afternoon:

-- Cable confirmed that wide receiver Chaz Schilens underwent surgery on his broken left foot Wednesday morning. Schilens is expected to be sidelined 4-6 weeks, according to the head coach.

-- After a lackluster performance in the morning, the Raiders offense seemed to respond a little better in the afternoon session. Still, there were too many incompletions and interceptions thrown by quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Jeff Garcia.

They didn't get much help from their receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped two passes thrown right to him; Johnnie Lee Higgins also had one slip through his hands and ended up getting picked off.

Garcia, who only began practicing on Monday, had the nicest throw of the day when he connected with Heyward-Bey on a crossing pattern, threading the pass right in front of San Francisco safety Mark Roman.

Charlie Frye, who looks like the odd man out in the competition for the third quarterback job, threw a pass that was intercepted by linebacker Marques Harris.

-- Right tackle Cornell Green was poked in the eye during the afternoon and was unable to finish practice. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha's bruised heel also forced him to take it easy in the afternoon, though Cable said he doesn't think either injury is serious.

-- Cable said the Raiders are done with two-a-day practices.


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